Next Steps for Cleaner Goods Movement at the San Pedro Bay Ports

Issue: 
Rick Cameron

Hector De La Torre: I’m here to talk about freight technologies and tell you a little bit about what CARB is up to. The benefits of zero emissions are pretty obvious. We cut air toxins, we attain air quality standards, and we mitigate climate change. For my purposes, and for these communities that surround the ports, absolutely the first one is the most important. Those other two are nice—that we get benefits from them as well—but cutting air toxins and reducing health risks is absolutely the priority for me personally, as a member of the Board. So we need transportation that’s less polluting and more efficient. We need a modern freight transport system. We want to have zero-emission vehicles where feasible, and we will use near-zero emission technologies with renewable fuels everywhere else. That’s our plan, in two points. 

The scope of emission reductions that is required to meet our mandates is vast. We are out of attainment in Southern California, as we are in the Central Valley. So from a California perspective, these are the two hot zones that we need to address. This effort will help to reshape the freight system to meet our goals. We have to have immediate actions, which we’re taking on a regular basis—the Truck and Bus Rule, etc.—but also have intermediate and long-term goals as well. 

The development of heavy-duty zero-emission technologies is well underway. The move to zero-emission technology can happen immediately in some cases. In other cases, we need intermediate steps because the technology just isn’t ripe yet. Success depends on increasing the capacity and durability of batteries and fuel cells in harsh environments, while decreasing the size, weight, and cost of this equipment. Sectors with equipment that moves cargo over a distance will also depend on design and/or operational changes to improve efficiency. 

Interestingly enough, a lot of this research is being done at the Department of Defense. Don’t think of them as being far-sighted in these areas. They absolutely are concerned about their ability to get from A to B in order to defend our nation, and so they are doing a lot of this wonderful research, whether it’s on shipping, trucking, or even airplanes. The deployment of these technologies will also rely on ARB partnerships with state agencies—contrary to popular belief, we don’t do it all—and others to provide the alternative fuels and energy infrastructure that is needed to take us to the next level. 

How do we get there? Partnerships, incentives, and regulations. 

Rick Cameron: At the Port of Long Beach, we are updating our strategic plan. That’s very important, so that in the long run we’ll have a standing document and we’ll have a process that will allow us to continue to check in and reprioritize our own programs, and our policies, and adapt. That will provide flexibility in the long run. 

We’re updating our Clean Air Action Plan jointly with the Port of Los Angeles. We’re conducting workshops to engage stakeholders. It’s going to incorporate a lot of what came out of the governor’s executive order—efficiency and energy—as well as our core mission: to fund technologies with zero or near zero emissions, from a variety of sources. 

Supply-chain optimization has been a big buzzword since the end of last year. The two ports got permission from the Federal Maritime Commission to actually work together with this new initiative. We’re truly after core efficiency. How can we be more efficient with the current systems and assets we have? Some are very low-hanging fruit. Others are bigger, longer-term strategies.

For us to be able to do what we all need to do here in the region, competitiveness is going to be critical.

Peter Peyton: Hector talked about systems and moving cargo. It’s a critical part of our discussion. We know that technologies are coming. We know that the ports are looking at what they have to do with the infrastructure, what they have to do with the land-use studies. But what we really have to be aware of is setting that five-year strategy and saying: Those 20,000-TEU ships are going to be here in five years. How do we move that cargo through, and what is the environmental footprint? 

Currently, a lot of people may not realize that local cargo goes by trucks. Just consider Las Vegas and Phoenix. We’ve got one truck that’s spewing whatever it spews all the way to Phoenix, and then it’s probably coming back, and then it’s probably going back. These are the inefficiencies that we have to understand when we build into the next five-year strategy. Know that it all starts in Asia, when they load that ship. We understand what it’s going to take to efficiently move that many cans through the system and get more value of the moves per acre than we currently have. 

I’ve watched businesses change. I’ve seen a lot of winners and I’ve seen a lot of losers. Everybody says that LA and Long Beach are going to lose their market shares. I’m not worried about losing market share, because the next ships they’re building aren’t going to fit through the Panama Canal anyway. They’re going to have to come to LA. That puts all the more pressure on us to understand what we’re going to do within five years—how we’re going to move this cargo.

George Minter: Our goal in 2020 is 33 percent RPS, and our goal in 2030 is 50 percent. Statewide, we’re already at about 25-27 percent. We’ll get to 33. 

But you’ve still got to realize that the balance remains natural gas generation. As we increase our RPS and get more renewables on the grid, gas actually becomes more and more important. There’s a growing interdependence between gas and renewable generation, because it’s gas that we turn to to address the variability in both solar and wind, in whether it’s day or night or whether there’s cloud cover. Gas becomes more and more critical to electric generation, and of course that electric generation powers our zero-emission vehicles. 

We need a 90-percent cleaner truck. Our thinking is: That’s where we need to go. 

A game-changer has been developed just in the last couple of weeks. It’s been worked on with the South Coast AQMD, the CEC, SoCalGas, and Cummins Westport, an engine manufacturer, to develop a natural gas engine that’s 90 percent lower in emissions than today’s current engines. In fact, it meets a standard developed by the South Coast. Two weeks ago, CARB certified the first engine that’s a near-zero engine produced by Cummins Westport. It’s a public-private sector partnership. This is in the market today. Cummins Westport is ready to build about 30,000 of these engines next year in 2016. Now, that’s a transit-sized engine. It’s perfect for transit buses. We’d certainly like to see the clean transit rule make way for the purchase of these vehicles. But what’s really important is that all the heavy-duty sectors will be able to utilize this 90-percent cleaner engine. The next engine that’s to be developed will be the larger engine for goods movement, for heavy-duty trucks. That’s the 11.9 or 12-litre engine. We expect that to be finished next year, ready to be produced in 2017. 

When we talk about near-zero technology, we’re not talking about the future. We’re actually talking about today. Then we need to start buying these engines next year. We’ve got to start getting them deployed and on the road. This is not some future hope—it’s simply an agency and funding challenge. •••

"The scope of emission reductions that is required to meet our mandates is vast. We are out of attainment in Southern California, as we are in the Central Valley. So from a California perspective, these are the two hot zones that we need to address." -Hector De La Torre

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